Following an improbable comeback during Week Five of the high school football season – in which Northeast High School climbed out of a 31-7 hole to defeat Tarpon Springs, 41-37 – Cobras' Head Coach Mike Jalazo was named the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach of the Week.
Jalazo's team kept working hard after that inspiring victory, and by season's end the hard work had paid off handsomely, both for the Cobras and their leader.
Jalazo eventually led the Cobras to the playoffs in only his second season as head coach, at the same time displaying exemplary leadership off the field and spearheading an effort to invest in stronger academic programs. In recognition of all of those achievements, on and off the gridiron, Jalazo has been named the Buccaneers Coach of the Year.
On Sunday, Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik welcomed Jalazo, along with wife Kristina and daughter Alli, to Raymond James Stadium to accept the Coach of the Year award just before Tampa Bay's 2012 home finale.
Jalazo will receive a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach of the Year football, cap and framed certificate, as well as a $1,000 donation to the school's football program. He says the donation will be invested in a study program to ensure that his players will not only be fine athletes but academic stars as well.
"At the end of the day, we have to help these kids get to the next level outside of football," Jalazo said. "That's our goal. When we get there, we will be a successful program."
While the Cobras' season ended with a first-round playoff loss to the nation's top ranked team, Manatee High, Jalazo is proud of his squad's achievements. Northeast's 24-point come-from-behind win over Tarpon Springs and defeat of division rival St. Petersburg High School – the school's first in five years – should serve as major stepping stones to future success.
"We only had five seniors, and to beat St. Pete on homecoming, that was exciting for the whole school," Jalazo said. "The game against Tarpon, to come back the way we did…but we lost some close games, too. We learned a lot from it."
Jalazo called his Coach of the Year award a tremendous honor, but the most impactful part of the entire experience was the initial trip to One Buccaneer Place, where his players were able to gain an understanding of what it means to be a true professional.
"For me, the best thing was for the kids to see what kind of work it takes, in terms of the physical conditioning, in terms of preparation," Jalazo said. "I'm in it for the kids, and that was the best part."